The Coastal Post - September, 1998

Computer Recycling Crisis In Marin

By Jim Scanlon

Marin County is about to lose one of the very few places in the nation where computers and other outmoded high technology equipment can be dumped for reuse, recycling-and a tax credit!

The Marin Computer Resource Center, now located on the industrial part of Lincoln Avenue near the freeway is moving to a huge space, a former beverage bottling plant three exits south of the Oakland Airport. The move must be completed by October 1, 1998. So far, there has so far been no decision about its name which implies its Marin County origin and roots.

The Center has survived for over five years now completely on its own--by the skin of its teeth---without foundation grants or government subsidies. Many individuals and non profits have benefited-low income persons, seniors, shut-ins, the disabled, family shelters, the list is long. Truckloads of old but useful computers go to Mexico, a container goes to Cameroon. Old floppy disks are sorted to begin new life as CDs.

Computer refurbishment classes are offered and minor offenders are referred by the courts to work as an alternative to jail. One can only guess at the amount of land fill space that has been saved, and the extra value created by the reuse of once very expensive equipment.

Being totally self supporting and subject to shifting market prices, the Center was devastated by the recent drop in Asian economies which sent the price of ground up computer mother boards down through the floor of the Dow Jones Industrial Average into the sub-sub-sub basement. Being resourceful (no pun intended) the Center applied for non profit status to become eligible for foundation grants. They now have the status, but not the bucks-at least not yet.

The move is not the usual tale of rising rents and greedy landlords. James Burgett, the founder, says that his landlord has actually been pretty good and understanding, "...but we are driving him crazy because we are bursting at our seams. The city (San Rafael) has also been good to us, but we need a lot of space which we can't afford in Marin".

James would like to maintain a small depot here in Marin, but cannot afford to do so without outside support. He has applied to the Marin Community Foundation for a rent subsidy and hopes to locate in San Rafael, if possible.

Unfortunately the Buck Foundation has to deal with lots of outstretched hands and the Center is not your typical non profit. It's sort of a blue collar Oakland Raiders kind of do-gooder kind of organizational mix of pure working class, tree hugging, punk, high tech hipster nerds on the go. On good days it is merely chaotic.

We urge all readers to write to Tom Peters the Director of the Marin Community Foundation, 17 East Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Larkspur CA. and urge him and his staff look into this matter before it is too late.

J.S.

cc. Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison

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